On behalf of John K. Elliott
A mystery that wasn't solved in time, and who's the real hero. Also, 7 other things worth your time.
In 1969, a deputy U.S. marshal named John K. Elliott was assigned to track down a fugitive: a Cleveland bank teller who walked away on a Friday afternoon with a bag filled with $215,000 in cash (roughly $1.5 million in today’s money).
Elliott was about 33 years old when he first caught the case. He had a lot to go on.
He knew the bank teller’s real name: Theodore J. “Ted” Conrad.
He had Conrad’s photo and examples of his signature, and knew his date of birth: July 10, 1949.
He dug up almost every detail about Conrad’s childhood: his family, where he’d gone to school, who his friends and his girlfriend were.
He even figured out that Conrad had once worked at the same ice cream place where Elliott liked to take his family, and that both he and Conrad had the same doctor.
Also, he learned that Conrad was obsessed with the Steve McQueen movie, The Thomas Crown Affair, which had come out the year before, and said after watching it repeatedly, he was sure he could pull off a bank heist if he tried.
Elliott followed leads all over the country—California, Hawaii, Texas and Oregon. Yet, he couldn’t find Conrad.
Then, years went by and the trail grew cold. But, the Conrad case was the one case that Elliott couldn’t forget.
“As a kid growing up,” his son, Peter Elliott, recalled recently, “the only thing I ever heard was, ‘pass the mashed potatoes,’ and ‘when am I going to get Conrad?’”
Peter Elliott and two of his three siblings grew up to follow their father’s footsteps in law enforcement; in fact, Peter is now the U.S. Marshal for Cleveland. After his father retired, that meant that Peter Elliott picked up the Conrad case.
The Elliotts got the story featured on television shows like America’s Most Wanted and Unsolved Mysteries. (You can also watch a short, locally produced video, called Lake Erie’s Coldest Cases, here.)
There were more leads, but nothing ever panned out. More and more time went by: 10 years, 25 years, even 50 years.
Finally, John K. Elliott died last year, at age 83, without ever catching Conrad. He and his wife had been married for 57 years. A few days before his death, his son Peter visited him. As always, they talked about the case.
So, what happened to Ted Conrad? In short, he got away with it.
After walking out of the bank in Cleveland, he disappeared—and he eventually settled in suburban Massachusetts, assuming a new identity: “Thomas Randele.”
He had a couple of careers—golf pro and car sales—got married and had children. Then, this past May, Conrad (I’m going to keep calling him that), came clean to his family about what he’d done in 1969.
He was on his deathbed by then, and his family kept his secret. But, after his obituary as Thomas Randele was published, someone at the U.S. Marshal’s Service noticed it—and spotted details common to Conrad’s life.
His parents’ first names were listed accurately. His alma mater (New England College) and the city of his birth (Denver) were the same; his date of birth was similar—same month and date, except “Randele” had supposedly been born in 1947, not 1949.
And, investigators confirmed the hunch by pulling a legal document that Conrad had signed when he filed for bankruptcy in 2014, and comparing the signatures.
A lot of other people have written about this case. Mostly, Conrad gets portrayed as a colorful rogue. In the Globe article for example, he comes across as rakish and lovable.
Even Peter Elliott is quoted saying Conrad seems to have been “a good family man, good father, good husband, good friend,” during his 52 years on the lam.
But, I pulled the online files from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, to see what Conrad/Randele had signed back in 2014. There’s no need to speak a lot more ill of the dead, but the file is full of documents he signed under penalty of perjury under this new name.
Anyway, Conrad stayed free, but I don’t think it’s fair to portray him as some kind of supposed hero. So instead, let’s let the Elliotts, father and son, have the last word.
Because last month, Peter Elliott flew to Massachusetts to see the house Conrad had lived in, and meet with his widow and daughter, who use the last name, “Randele,” and confirm the story once and for all.
“It was kind of weird,” Peter Elliott told the Boston Globe. “When your dad spent years being frustrated, trying to find him, and then we’re walking in the house and just sitting down and talking with his family.”
It was enough for Peter Elliott to close the case file on the memory of Ted Conrad, fugitive bank teller. And when he signed the documents, he added a tribute to his late father under the final endorsement, signing it:
“Peter Elliott, ‘on behalf of John K. Elliott.’”
7 other things worth your time
The U.S. Supreme Court’s conservatives suggested in oral arguments Wednesday that the court will likely either reverse Roe vs. Wade or scale it back significantly, “as the court tackled its most consequential reproductive-rights case in a generation.” (NPR)
More Americans live alone now than at any time in history: there were 37 million one-person households in the United States in 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, representing 28 percent of all households across the country. (The Hill)
A new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says debt collectors can now reach out to people on Twitter, Instagram or wherever else they have online social accounts, as long as the messages are private. (Protocol)
“A letter from Catherine the Great supporting mass immunization against smallpox sold at auction Wednesday in London (for the equivalent of about $1,260,000). In the letter, dated April 20, 1787, the Russian empress instructs a governor-general of what is now Ukraine to make immunizing the public a priority and says that ‘such inoculation should be common everywhere.’” (WashPost)
Parents who took their kids to a trampoline park in Tampa want to know how a fight turned into a massive brawl involving hundreds of children. (Fox 13)
This puts things in perspective: one-third of the people alive on the planet today have never used the Internet at all. (MSN)
The world’s most expensive cities: Tel Aviv, followed by Paris and Singapore (tie), then Zurich and Hong Kong. New York City ranked #6 and Los Angeles was #9. (USA Today)
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